The College’s decision to hold Sendoff the Friday before finals, rather than its traditional date on the last weekend of April, demonstrates administrators’ lack of respect toward Kenyon’s student body. Furthermore, it communicates to students and alumni that the administration does not value the culture of this school, nor the opinions of those who comprise its student population.
Sendoff’s sudden change to the Friday before finals, without the consent of the student body, or even an adequate explanation of the reasoning behind the change, gives the impression that students are merely a demographic to be managed, rather than individuals who have spent significant portions of their lives forming emotional attachments to this school. Even if this move is tolerable in the grand scheme of things, it demonstrates a lack of regard for the culture that Kenyon students and faculty have built. Scheduling Sendoff so students cannot continue the festivities through the weekend without violating quiet hours strips students of their chance to celebrate the end of the year without having to worry about these celebrations affecting their finals.
Again, this poses no deep existential threat to us, but it does weaken the importance of any personal and educational achievements that have taken place during the year, since students are not able to celebrate them (or blow off the steam). Instead, we become more inclined to view Kenyon as a place where we happen to attend classes until we don’t.
To underestimate the importance Sendoff holds to the student body is to not understand the student body itself. Each attempt the administration makes at dismantling Kenyon’s cultural touchstones reduces the prominence it has in the memories of its alumni, and reduces their willingness to help it continue. I don’t want Kenyon to become a school like any other, but without our traditions and institutions (don’t think I’ve forgotten the Cove) that set us apart, that help form positive memories of this place, Kenyon runs that risk. And this would not be in the administration’s best interest, because alumni would be less inclined to donate to a school they do not remember fondly. It’s not a respectful relationship, and Kenyon as a whole suffers for it.
Any qualms the administration had regarding Sendoff’s original dates could have been addressed and perhaps solved through greater communication with the student body. You’ll find that we are surprisingly reasonable people, especially when it comes to issues we love and care about. But the decision to treat us as children whose opinions are unimportant to the governance of this school will cause us to take our affairs elsewhere, leaving Kenyon with a vastly different reputation among any potential Gunds or Newmans who may be in attendance today.
Aaron McIlhenny ’16 is an English major from San Francisco. Contact him at email@example.com.